The New York Giants have tried since OTAs to give the No. 2 quarterback job to Ryan Nassib. All of the second-team reps had gone to the second-year man from Syracuse, with Curtis Painter relegated to 'mental reps' and a sparse handful of third-team snaps.
During the first two preseason games Nassib followed Eli Manning and played roughly half of those games, with Painter making what amounted to end of the game cameos.
That changed this week when Painter got second-team reps. When the Giants face the Indianapolis Colts Saturday night it will be the veteran Painter who follows Manning, getting his best opportunity to show that he deserves to keep the No. 2 job he held a season ago. In 2013, of course, Painter was the backup while then-rookie Nassib did not dress for a game.
Is this an indication that Painter has surpassed Nassib in the duel to be Manning's backup? Head coach Tom Coughlin said only "It is where we are right now."
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In Coughlin's words, Painter "certainly did earn" this chance. He smartly led the Giants on a game-winning drive last week the first time he stepped on the field. Entering the game with 10:16 to play and the Giants trailing 16-13 after a Nassib backwards pass was batted down, recovered and run back for a touchdown by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Painter led the Giants on a 12-play, 80-yard game-winning drive that took 7:26. We went 7-for-7 for 68 yards on the drive and hit Corey Washington with a 3-yard pass for the game-winning score.
In two games, Painter is 10-for-10 for 94 yards with a touchdown and a passer rating of 139.2. Nassib is 20-of-33 (57.6 percent) for 220 yards with a touchdown and a passer rating of 87.9. Nassib has also made poor plays in each of the preseason game. Against the Buffalo Bills he tossed an ugly interception with no receiver in the area, and was bailed out by a Buffalo penalty. Against Pittsburgh he threw the backwards pass, a ball that should not have been thrown whether it was forward or backward.
If Painter plays well vs. the Colts, a team he started eight games for in 2011, it stands to reason that he would become the front-runner for the backup role.
Where would that leave Nassib, the second-year man the Giants traded up to select in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft? Well, the most logical answer to that -- for whichever quarterback falls permanently to No. 3 -- is firmly on the Giants' roster bubble.
The more you pour over options for the Giants' 53-man roster [latest roster projection] the more it becomes apparent that the ideal scenario for the Giants is to keep only two quarterbacks. Keeping a third would force them to cut a player at another position they would rather keep.
Perhaps there would be a trade market for Nassib as the regular season draws near, but perhaps not. If he is unable for a second straight season to oust Painter for the backup job that wold certainly be a sign to the rest of the league that his NFL future may not be very bright.
It is entirely possible, of course, that Nassib outperforms Painter not only Saturday but over the final two preseason games as well, thus earning the No. 2 spot.
If he can't, that has to be a blow to GM Jerry Reese and the Giants' college scouting department. The Giants swapped fourth-round picks with the Arizona Cardinals and surrendered a sixth-round pick as well for the right to select Nassib. They have also committed two seasons and had two offensive coaching staffs work to develop him.
It would hurt if they end up coming to the realization Nassib isn't going to be what they envisioned. Painter has his best chance Saturday night to push the Giants toward that decision.